Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he was finally going to announce his pick for state surgeon general and Department of Health secretary.
DeSantis attributed the long delay in finalizing his health appointment to, among other things, “due diligence,” noting that he wanted his candidate to “get to work and not have anything complicated or throw sand in the gears.”
But things quickly got, well, sandy.
DeSantis announced on Monday that Scott Rivkees was his choice to run the massive Department of Health.
By Wednesday, after the News Service of Florida reported that Rivkees was investigated for sexual harassment and potential financial conflicts of interest, Senate President Bill Galvano said his chamber would not hold confirmation hearings on Rivkees this Session.
The news was the buzz at the Florida Board of Medicine meeting in West Palm Beach Friday morning, with physicians and attorneys alike wondering who vetted Rivkees — or didn’t.
We’ve been told that Rivkees wasn’t DeSantis’ first choice for the job and that the governor had considered other candidates, but medical marijuana — either agreeing to repeal the state’s ban on smoking it or having investments in it — had been a stumbling block.
The News Service of Florida’s repeated public records requests for Rivkees’ and others’ job applications for the secretary post went unanswered, until Rivkees’ application was distributed to reporters late Wednesday night. The application was signed but was not dated, and it’s not clear when the state received it.
While the Senate won’t consider Rivkees, the chamber has been moving the confirmation process along for other secretaries, including Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew. Mayhew cleared her first stop in the Senate confirmation process Thursday.
Meanwhile, lawmakers begin the sixth week of the 2019 Legislative Session on Monday and will focus efforts on passing the only must-pass bill of the year: The budget.
On the health care front, some of the biggest changes the chambers will have to reconcile is Medicaid funding for hospitals and how the state should provide care to persons with disabilities. The House wants the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to work with Medicaid on a potential new delivery system.
SPOILER ALERT — that means Medicaid managed care.
The Senate budget doesn’t envision making any changes to the current program, commonly referred to as the “I-budget.”
The chambers, though, are in agreement in other areas of the budget, including a decision not to include additional funding for Florida nursing homes. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Bradley committed to addressing additional long-term care funding in the weeks going forward.
Speaking of Bradley, he had some less-than-kind words for Florida hospital executives this week.
During Senate debate on the budget, Bradley said that hospital executives shouldn’t be in the business of lobbying the Florida Legislature.
“Every hour, every day, every week, that these hospital CEOs are spending over here, essentially lobbying us … they are not back at their hospital dealing with making their hospital better, overseeing their people,” Bradley said.